Well, the slide continues. The Washington Redskins have now dropped to 3-6 on the season following a 20-9 loss to the Miami Dolphins in a game that saw coach Mike Shanahan go back to quarterback Rex Grossman after three weeks of John Beck’s struggles.
Now losers of five straight – the first five-game losing streak of Shanahan’s career – the Redskins remain inept on offense and overextended on defense.
Not exactly sure how many people want to relive one second of another embarrassing defeat, but here are five observations on the game, the state of this team and other Redskins-related matters.
1.) Shanahan now 0-for-4 on QBs
The coach chose the lesser of two evils, yanking Beck for Grossman and at the same time, basically saying ‘I’ve seen enough.’ He didn’t think Beck was capable of beating the 1-7 Miami Dolphins Sunday. But it turns out that Grossman wasn’t either. The offensive players – although frustrated – came away from the game believing they at least had a better chance because of Grossman’s aggressive nature. In reality, though, it’s clear neither of these quarterbacks is the answer long-term.
So after punting on Jason Campbell before he even played a game, after botching the Donovan McNabb experiment and now gambling poorly on Grossman and Beck, Shanahan and the Redskins remain on the same – and possibly worse – footing at quarterback as they were when he came to town in January of 2010.
2.) Feeble rushing attack
Shanahan prides himself on the fact that he won with Steve Young in San Francisco when Young hadn’t done anything in his career before then, and the fact that he won two Super Bowls with John Elway, who had only come up short before Shanahan took over in Denver. But another Shanahan trademark that’s M.I.A. is a strong running game. The coach always could take whatever running back he had on his Broncos roster, plug him into the zone-blocking scheme, and boom, he’d run wild.
That’s not the case this season. Washington now ranks 31st in the league, averaging just 3.9 yards a carry, 86.7 yards per game. The team has only one rushing touchdown this season. The loss of Kory Lichtensteiger has something to do with this, and Jammal Brown’s injury doesn’t help, either. But things just aren’t clicking. In Sunday’s game, and many games before it, the opposing defense has swallowed up the Redskins’ run game without even having to load up the box. Against the Dolphins, linemen appeared to be stuck in mud, unable to get to linebackers and open running lanes for their backs. And even when there were small openings, Ryan Torain and Roy Helu struggled to capitalize.
Against St. Louis, Torain did a great job of breaking tackles and picking up yards after contact. That’s not happening now. Helu boasts great speed, but he isn’t very shifty and he’s not getting away from defenders. Without a run game and without a consistent passing game, this offense remains stuck in neutral.
3.) Youth movement
Seven games remain, and they likely will drag on with no relief in sight for the struggling offense. But for the remainder of the season, the main thing that matters is the improvement of the team’s young building blocks. It’s about the continued development of rookie outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who had two sacks and forced fumbles against Miami, improving as a pass-rusher and run-stopper. It’s safe to say the Redskins have their pass-rushing tandem set for years to come in Orakpo (5.5 sacks) and Kerrigan (5).
The next seven games also are about getting the steadily-improving Leonard Hankerson (hopefully his hip injury isn’t too serious) more opportunities. It’s about more carries for Helu, who probably should have started Sunday. It’s about coaches getting a feel for rookie guard Maurice Hurt and whether he can be a long-term solution on the left side of the line between tackle Trent Williams and center Will Montgomery. You would’ve thought it could mean more opportunities for young wideouts Terrence Austin and Anthony Armstrong, but yesterday David Anderson took that slot receiver role from Austin (recording one catch) and Armstrong wasn’t targeted once.
4.) The Redskins’ next win will come...
That’s a good question. Up next are the Dallas Cowboys at FedEx Field Sunday. Tony Romo & Co. are coming off a big win. Dallas beat Washington as a battered bunch early in the season and now is much healthier. Then comes a road trip to Seattle, where it’s always tough to play (ask the Ravens). After that, the Patriots, Jets, Giants, Vikings and Eagles await, and that’s it. I don’t know that you can look at any of those games and say ‘Oh, there’s a win.’ The Redskins could always catch a team sleeping, but if they couldn’t beat Miami or Carolina, who CAN they beat?
5.) Some Redskins are playing at an elite level
Only they’re on other teams now. Who would’ve thought Carlos Rogers would be leading the league in interceptions? No. 22 recorded two more picks Sunday to increase his season - and career-best - total to five. The entire Redskins’ secondary doesn’t have that many INTs. And how about Andre Carter, who recorded 4.5 sacks for the New England Patriots in their win over the Jets? Carter now has nine sacks - 3.5 more than any Redskin - but he wasn’t needed in Washington because he couldn’t make the transition to outside linebacker. Now back in a 4-3 system, Carter has returned to the form that saw him rack up 11 sacks in 2009 before Shanahan came to town.